Consumers in the United Kingdom and Italy may apply low-cost online purchases to their mobile-phone accounts under a partnership Glamoo Ltd. and Onebip Srl announced Nov. 10.

London-based Glamoo offers consumers discount deals from various merchants such as clothing stores and restaurants. Consumers shopping on the company’s website may use their mobile-phone numbers to make purchases for items costing less than £10 (US$16 or 12 euros), according to Marko Maras, CEO of Onebip, an Italy-based mobile-phone payment-processing service that processes the payments for Glamoo.

The partnership marks a departure from the type of online purchases usually billed to mobile-phone accounts, including digital goods available through online gaming or social-networking sites such as Facebook Inc., Maras tells PaymentsSource. Most phone bill payment-service providers limit their availability to such sites because of fraud and other concerns (see story).  

Glamoo’s system enables consumers to make purchases instantly. Glamoo either charges the amount of the purchase to the customer’s mobile-phone bill immediately or applies the charge directly from a pay-as-you-go mobile account. Glamoo acts as an intermediary during the transaction and pays the merchant once a consumer pays his mobile-phone bill, a spokesperson from Glamoo tells PaymentsSource.

This type of payment option enables consumers and merchants to make and accept purchases without worrying about credit or debit card fraud, Maras notes.

Onebip charges Glamoo a small fee to process the transactions, but Maras declined to specify the amount. The service is free to consumers.

Billing online purchases to a mobile account using the user’s phone number appeals to younger consumers and immigrants who lack a credit or debit card, Maras suggests. The service is unlikely to displace other payment channels, but it already has a “high” growth rate, he says, though he could not provide data to support that contention.

 Some experts believe companies such as Onebip may have difficulty finding many consumers interested in regularly paying through the mobile-phone account.

Some consumers might apply smaller-ticket, everyday items such as monthly parking passes to a mobile-phone bill, but “it’s hard to tell if there is a high rate of consumer adoption,” Adil Moussa, an analyst for Boston-based Aite Group LLC, tells PaymentsSource. Moreover, most consumers are trying to determine ways to decrease their mobile-phone bills, not increase them, he says.

Such companies as Glamoo and Onebip first must find a target audience and ensure the option is viable before they can expect to see significant growth, Moussa suggests.

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